UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Wedding night buzz : constructed meaning in modern society Ota, Risako


The current study shows the transformation of the meanings attached to sex and marriage in the face of the changing cultural connections between them. Originally, marriage served to integrate couples into an intricate system of community ties and obligations, and it was primarily based on economic and political functions rather than romance. Marriage regulated sex and the wedding night fulfilled the ritual of permitting sex. However, following a long sexual revolution in North America, the ritual of sex on the wedding night became a fading tradition as sex became more casualized and detached from the institution of marriage. Furthermore, the reason to marry moved from the basis of public obligation to a self-sufficient private and romantic experience. Regardless, the experience of the wedding night continues to attract some attention from modern engaged individuals. Using a grounded theory approach, nine interviews were conducted with heterosexual, engaged individuals living in a city of Western Canada. When respondents discussed wedding night anticipations, it was clear that they had not thought about it much. Yet, in discussing the specifics of their own wedding night, it was found that some people recognized the ritual of sex on the wedding night as the necessary act to solidify the union of the two people. While others dismissed its purely sexual significance, they insisted the night to be about intimacy and a private celebration of the marriage. While they differ on the importance placed on the ritual, both focused on the private nature of the experience, which is a profound characteristic of modern marriages. The ritual of the wedding night continues to fulfill its function in modern marriages even though its meanings have been reinterpreted. The ritual promotes a private experience of marriage and withdraws the couple, at least for a time, away from social connections. The findings from the current study show the importance of studying how people think about rituals; the study also illustrates how cultural change operates and how history continues to manifest itself in the present.

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